BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
On April 26, 1986, workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant were conducting a test on one of the reactors.
There was a catastrophic steam explosion that resulted in a fire and a series of additional explosions.
Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were contaminated with radioactive nuclear fallout, which continues to be a problem nearly 20 years later.
One of the people affected by the disaster was 14-year-old Lyuba Kulinich, who lived about 120 kilometres away in Kiev, Ukraine.
Webbwood author Kevin Rinta, who married Lyuba in 1998, has documented what happened to her in the months after the disaster in his self-published book, Chernobyl Summer.
The former English as a second language teacher decided to write the book after he returned to Canada with his wife and their three children in December 2004.
During the summer of 1986, Lyuba, along with other children from Kiev, was evacuated to a "Young Pioneer" communist summer camp on the Black Sea to escape the radiation.
"She goes to these summer camps at the age of 14, and unexpectedly finds romance. It's there where she transforms herself and experiences things she never has before," says Rinta.
"Of course, her romance was a big taboo. People didn't hold hands in the street, and signs of affection were not common. It was a big shock for her parents when they found out at the end of the book."
Rinta's book also documents the Chernobyl disaster itself.
"The second story, running simultaneously in a different text, is the story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster - the events that led up to it, how they coped with it and how it was finally semi-contained," he says.
Rinta and Lyuba researched the disaster in the Russian language so that nothing was lost in translation.
"I researched all the stories in English, and none of them matched anything written in the Russian language. Because of the propaganda and downright lies from the Soviet Union, you couldn't trust anything that was told to the West," he says.
The communities closest to the power plant are virtually abandoned now, although some people have refused to leave.
Those people "just all live within the radiation," says Rinta. "They're all just like big lab rats. If you ever want to know the effects of radiation, that's the best place to do it."
Rinta's book, which costs $16.95, is available at several Your Independent Grocer stores in the Sudbury area, as well as Coles, Chapters, Tin Can Alley in the Rainbow Centre and Gloria's Restaurant.
For more information, go to www.chernobylsummer.com or phone 869-0846.